Guest Post – The Future of Work

There has been a lot of rubbish pontificated on over the last few weeks on the future of work.  Oh horrors! It is going to change. We will have to pay everyone to do nothing, or to only work part time. There is a rising shortage of jobs for those with no capabilities. Only those with good skills will get work.

Those of us with any age on us at all know that the nature of work has always changed. When I was young, married women did not work in the paid workforce but worked in the home to keep their husband in the lap of luxury with high quality care and attention. Our day was driven by the standard routine of the home. Then we had to go back into the workforce, which required some retraining. Later on we had to learn how to use technology and we have had to continually upskill.

In my life I have had to retrain at least seven times in entirely new careers.  Initially I had virtually no education to build on, and I am still learning new skills long after I am supposed to have retired. It is exciting and challenging and never boring.   

So, what about the not so bright? Will there be no jobs for them? For one thing most of them are not so dim as they are portrayed. For example, I am sure most of them are much more skilled in the advanced use of technology than I am! Key here is the standard of our education. Children must not get left behind. They may need a change of skills over the years and so, as well as learning to read write and add up, they need more skills around self discipline and other soft skills such as reasoning, risk management, a sense of the world around them and adaptability to help ensure there will always be work for them.

Personal and professional development must become the norm for everyone. But, that has to be of a high quality. To be frank, many of the professional development programmes are lightweight and not applicable to the person’s current or future needs. They are just a box to tick. The current mechanism for selecting training programmes and paying for this training is unhelpful. There appear to be  limited use of KPIs that will generate evidence of fitness for purpose of professional development in New Zealand.

Some years ago on a visit to Singapore I was talking with my taxi driver about his future in work, and he explained to me that he and all his friends attended education programmes during the weekends so they could move on to better jobs. He paid his own way and did it in his own time. He was extremely dedicated to improving his own life.

So what does all this mean?

We must demand of our politicians, education providers and trainers the best quality in education and training for the world ahead of us. Currently, our education is not meeting those needs, and I am saying that as part of the education industry. We must have the best, and not waste people’s time and energy with useless paper wars. We need a restructure, as being proposed for CYFS, to ensure we have student-centred education from day one.  We also need all of us to step up to the plate and take responsibility for ourselves. A true partnership between students, educators and the Government will ensure that we do not get left behind the rest of the world.

Let us have the best education – and that requires a critical look at our standards, methods and funding models.


Frances Denz MNZM

Frances has been instrumental in helping entrrpeneurs establish more than 4000 businesses since 1986. She is an authority on business start-ups and regional economic development, and is a keynote speaker at conferences internationally. Frances is the co-founder of Stellaris Ltd and specialises in the small business and government sectors. In 2013 Frances was honoured by the Queen with Membership of the Order of New Zealand (MNZM) for services to business.

As a Maori woman of Ngati Tuwharetoa and Tainui descent, Frances has worked with many Maori organisations to establish expertise in self-employment. Frances has special interests in the health and horticulture industries. She was  the founding chair of the Women’s Loan Fund.

Frances is the author of Hope and RehabilitationAble to do Business and Women at the Top. She is passionate about encouraging small businesses to establish good governance and management in order to develop into very successful businesses.


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  • Tony Norriss

    There has already been a lot of technological change over the last 40 years. However, this change has not lead to a reduction in jobs. What has tended to happen is that new opportunities have opened up as a result of the technology. So it will be in the future.

    We may have more mundane work done by robots, for instance. However, that will require more people to design, build, program and service them. This may require people to reskill themselves to take advantage of the opportunities that arise. However, the opportunities will arise, and the employment apocalypse the left are predicting will be another storm in the tea-cup.

  • Hard1

    Already we have motorcycle taxi openings in the downtown construction zones. Several hundred required. ” It already took 45 minutes, or 20 on a good day, to get out of a carparking building in Durham Lane and on to Albert St, said the businessman, who did not want to be named”
    “In a statement, Wilson Parking admitted delays of up to 45 minutes because of roadworks and said its Elliott St, Finance Plaza and City Centre carparks are most affected.”
    It works well in Thailand to bypass the traffic jams.

    • Punxsutawney

      Sorry. Please explain what you mean re motorcycle taxi companies.

    • Barnacles2

      The motorcycle taxis are great in Bangkok a lot of them typically operate in the suburban streets and lanes from the skytrain stations taking commuters home or to the station

  • Wheninrome

    My education 1950s and 1960s allowed me to change “careers” many times, break for children and return, I did upskill myself in the use of computers. Then retired and upskilled myself in website, customer service (running a shop and staff). I had never done that type of work before.
    So the basic education of the past stands the test of time, one just has to be prepared to adapt, and I mean you personally take reponsibility for change and embrace it.
    Have people changed that much they need someone else to do this for them.

    • KatB

      I reckon for my kids, it wont necessarily be the best and brightest who will be getting the jobs, it will be the kids with common sense and a good work ethic, team that with good basic education and anything can be built on that. They will need to have the ability and willingness to be able to adapt, not necessarily be an expert in any given field. I think there will be a lot of “educated” kids out there but the big hole in the market will be common sense. I remember when I was hairdressing we had a school student in on work experience. She was vacuuming the salon when the cord on the vacuum cleaner reached it’s limit and she could go no further. She pointed this out and we had to tell her to just plug the vacuum cleaner in one of the many hot points further down the shop. Think we need a healthy dose of common sense put into the training somewhere along the line too. A lot of kids don’t have to be too responsible for themselves these days either, taken to school by car, they don’t have to worry about time management, getting themselves there. No younger siblings to help look after, not the same need for everyone in the family to pull their weight and help with little jobs. Just as we’ve taken away the dangers in the playground, we’ve also taken away responsibilities from them and I think that shows when they get to the workplace.

      • Wheninrome

        Indeed, possibly the best example would be to look at the pioneers who came to NZ, I mean the ones who came from England. Nothing here, they had to start from scratch, now I consider they were the most adaptable. The climate was different, there were no factories, no jobs that they were used to etc.,

  • Cynical Guy

    Welcome to the future of work. The more you force private companies to pay in salary, the more they’ll look to automate.

  • Mick Ie

    Future of work – over 15 years ago we had a conversation with our kids school principal about this. He told us back then, that some of the work our kids will be doing hadn’t even been invented yet. Sure enough. Poor old Labour. Always behind the 8 Ball.

  • Greenjacket

    About half the workers on the factory floor of the business I work at are illiterate and innumerate when they start. New workers are told we will commit ourselves to training them, and that begins with English and maths done on-site taught by one of the older workers, and that throughout their time at the company they will be trained and upskilled with NZQA recognised certificates and eventually diplomas – but it must be on-site so we can make sure the training is being done. Many of our workers are Maori kids who have basically been told for a decade at school that they are victims/failures/patronised and when they get their NZQA training certificates from us they often break down and cry because it is the first time that they have ever received a bit of paper that says they are really valued.

    What the “Future of Work” by Labour doesn’t get is that a lot of people – especially Maori and Pacific Islanders – are illiterate or innumerate and do not respond to a classroom/academic environment. What point is three years of free tertiary training for them? But with the right hands-on environment where they are trained at work they respond really well. Three years of free tertiary education will go down well with young student voters and the education unions. But Labour’s promise will do NOTHING for actual workers (most Maori and PIs).
    New Zealand needs to have a political party that represents working class interests.

    • Bartman

      “a lot of …. Maori and Pacific Islanders – are illiterate or innumerate and do not respond to a classroom/academic environment.” Sounds like we need Charter Schools for this lot!

  • Huia

    My husband was shocked and upset when I decided to go back to work after having the family, he did get used to it plus the money it bought in, but it was a juggling act for me with a young family. It taught me organization though.
    I have re-educated myself several times over my lifetime. When an opportunity was presented, I took it, knowing little about the new position but I learned. I studied and taught myself the skills needed, I went to night schooI and kept moving up the ladder. I eventually owned my own business’s, and at one time I was running 72 staff plus all that went with it. I introduced working contracts when they came out, but, had to go to the local tech to learn the ins and outs of the contracts so I knew what I was talking about.
    I spent time with staff who could hardly string two sentences together, I supported them, got them into the adult education schemes going at the time, a lot dropped out because it takes self discipline and self control to learn, they didn’t have that for the work place although they had it for their particular cultural group’s activities.
    I taught them personal hygiene, how to iron, basic cooking and how easy it was to put together your own lunch with no huge outlay, how to interact with other people whom they considered “stuck up and flash” (because they were literate and dressed and spoke well), these things are the very basics, which are not part of every day life in so many instances.
    I still work but its for unpaid, charitable and local organisation’s now.
    I get angry when I hear people whining about not being able to find work yet do nothing about upskilling themselves, or my own age group saying they couldn’t use a computer because they are too old to learn. You are never too old to learn in my book.
    That desire to work and improve your personal living situation gene, seems to be totally missing from a large part of our population. This is huge concern because why should the willing have to work to support the unwilling. I don’t mind supporting the unable sector, but the unwilling? they are conspicuous by their absence in all matters of charity work and volunteering work.
    Keep going Labour you are on the right track, making it glaringly obvious how far removed from the education system and NZer’s old and new you really are.

  • cows4me

    Hush, one can not attack the education system, it is the sacred cow. Heaven forbid we delouse the universities of the legions of leftwing nutjobs . Who will vote left if we actually teach our young skills that produce real income ?. What will become of all our busy bodies, that till us how to run our lives and where will they come from ? Who will wave the liberal banner, oh the humanity.

  • D.Dave

    I remember some 30 years ago, or more, a Labour Minister came to our rural town and told everyone Agriculture was a ‘sunset’ industry, and the young should get out whilst they could. It was another crisis averted by Labour, as farming has continued to be the backbone of our economy ever since. They had no idea of the “future of Work” 30+ years ago, and still don’t now.

  • Keanne Lawrence

    Old habits die hard. Many of us have a story that illustrate that is not just what you start with but more what you do along the way. The top of the list is learning. Primarily from your mistakes but more importantly from the people you meet and the things you do.
    Starting a family and establishing a home saw many of us start with a handsaw, hammer, ruler and pencil. Eventually leading to power tools and some better implements if we have that DIY gene. More commitments mean more income so extra work was grabbed or an extra job to continue to have a lifestyle.
    When staff were provided with a PC each to replace a manual system I was able to show my colleague how it could make life easier by producing a simple spread sheet from daily production data. Previously it had been filed and forgotten. Then showing it in a graph of various flavours he was hooked. Some things stick and I still find things still being written in the same sequence as hand written production schedules using the same abbreviations.
    Don’t tell the Media party but today it is possible to find the answer to almost anything by consulting Dr Google able assisted with You Tube how to videos. WWW really means What A Wonderful World we live and continue to be amazed at so many clever people out there. My wife is my in house teacher leading me to a new level of humility and though not a religious person it is easier to count my blessings while taking the lessons from failures.